Two weeks ago the Patriots were dead in the water coming off of a road loss to Pittsburgh. Tom Brady was finished. The dynasty was over. The Patriots were going to crumble into dust and fade away forever. Now they have a first-round bye in the playoffs for the ninth consecutive year. People have been counting the Patriots out too early for two decades now. You would think that someone would have learned by now. Here are the highlight's from Sunday's game:
- Remember last week when Tom Brady had an average performance and was determined to be injured/fallen off a cliff? That was just a little premature. Brady carved up the Jets defense with ease on Sunday, going 24/33 (73%) for 250 yards and a touchdown. His yardage would have been even higher had the Patriots not stuck to the ground game in the second half when they developed a large lead. Brady has had an underrated season, so underrated in fact that most people don't realize that he has a higher QBR this year (97.7) than he did in his Super Bowl-winning 2014 season (97.4). Don't count the GOAT out too soon.
- The Patriots rushing attack led the way again on Sunday, finishing with a combined 27 carries for 134 yards (4.96 yards per carry). Sony Michel had 14 carries for 50 yards. His running has steadily improved, and he always looks one step away from breaking away for a long touchdown. Rex Burkhead and James White also rotated in well, and have created an impressive three-headed monster running the ball.
- With Cordarrelle Patterson out with a knee injury, the Patriots needed to find new gadget weapons. They did so with Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett, who each ran two jet sweeps for a combined 40 yards. This is highlighting the teams diversity and ability to attack you with different players.
- Dorsett and Chris Hogan also had their most impressive games all season. Dorsett finished with five catches for 34 yards and a touchdown. Hogan caught six passes for 64 yards. This has been a disappointing season for the two receivers, but Sunday showed that they are still going to be able to make an impact when when the playoffs roll around.
- As a whole, the Patriots offensive line and tight ends played well. They blocked well in space, and game Brady plenty of time to throw the football. Brady was only sacked once all game, and that was more due to solid pass coverage by the Jets than a major breakdown on the offensive line.
- Stephon Gilmore continues to prove himself to be an elite cornerback. He completely locked down Robby Anderson on Sunday, with multiple pass breakups. The Patriots are going to need performances like that against the talented receivers that they will see in the playoffs.
- The Patriots pass defense as a whole looked fantastic on Sunday. They only gave up 167 pass yards to Sam Darnold, some of which came when the Patriots dropped into a zone coverage in the second quarter and allowed underneath throws. New England's man-to-man coverage has been underrated all season, and continues to be a driving force in their impressive defensive performances.
- Trey Flowers has quietly been one of the Patriots best defenders. He had six tackles on Sunday, as well as a sack (giving him a career-high 7.5 on the season) and two tackles for loss. He also had a forced fumble in the first quarter. One of Flowers' least talked about talents is his ability to punch the football out. He has an impressive knack for knocking the football out of runners hands with well-timed punches.
- This is an underrated part of the Patriots defensive teaching as a whole. Patriots defenders excel at attacking the football. They punch at balls with exceptional accuracy. They also rip at the ball when opposing runners are held up. It has led to a number of turnovers this season.
- The Patriots run defense continues to improve. They only allowed 23 rushes for 104 total yards. If you take out Darnold's 28 yard run, they only gave up 3.5 yards per rush. Malcolm Brown and Lawrence Guy have looked much better on the line of scrimmage over the previous few games, which is a good sign. It certainly has helped that the Patriots defensive backs have been playing extremely well, which has allowed New England to stack the box more. Still, New England's defensive lineman have finally started to play to their ability.
- Derek Rivers got his first sack as a Patriot. The 2017 third-round pick has had a rocky season, spending most of the year as a healthy scratch. His hard work and dedication paid off on Sunday as he recorded one of four Patriot sacks on Sam Darnold. The Patriots pass rush had it's most productive statistical game of the season.
New England's victory over the Jets shouldn't come as a surprise, but it was good to see them take care of business as they should. They didn't overlook this game with the playoffs starting next week. The Patriots are the healthiest they have been all season and riding a strong two-game win streak as they head into the playoffs with a first-round bye. We'll see you in the Divisional Round.